What’s Antarctican food waste doing in Spokane? Why, it’s being burned, of course.
Apparently, life on Antarctica is like camping–pack it in, pack it out. Not being able to dig a hole (to build a landfill) and having to follow the Arctic Treaty, Antarctic researchers have to send all of their refuse elsewhere. Most everything is recycled, and then there’s the food waste.
The government contractor charged with this cleanup task, recently sent 300 tons of food waste all the way to an incinerator in Spokane, Wash. Sorry, I meant to say it goes to a (euphemism alert!) waste-to-energy facility.
It seems a bit odd to pay a whopping $165 per ton to burn food waste when composting or anaerobic digestion (true waste-to-energy) would be more economical and environmental. And did anyone even look into feeding food scraps to penguins??
But, if that were the case, that food waste wouldn’t get the chance to burn alongside confiscated drugs and other seized goods. So there’s that…
A Washington supermarket has an on-site contraption that converts food waste into liquid fertilizer. Organics alchemy, in action!
The 42 million pounds of food that Forgotten Harvest will recover this year is…a lot. The most, actually.
Piles of Indian wheat rotting by the side of the road? What a shame; what a disaster.
On Wednesday, I posted a picture of a mysterious bit of produce. Some people guessed correctly that it was…a carrot! But a weird one at that.
It was actually a volunteer carrot that soldiered through the winter. I found it in the one neglected raised bed in my yard, the plant miraculously poking through a hole in a planter, which had apparently provided shelter from the freezing temperatures.
But honestly–it tasted really good! I had some raw and some mixed into an Asian stir-fry.
Now, the turnip that wintered in the same raised bed…that was less tasty. Some more pics, of the most mutated carrot I’ve ever seen.
What are you looking at?
Leave your guess as a comment. And yes, it was edible.
May 9, 2012 | Posted in Household, Personal
In case you missed the big news, Massachusetts is set to ban commercial food waste from landfills by 2014. I included it in Friday’s post, but it deserves its own space.
The new regulations would herald a major change–a few cities have similar rules on the books, but no state does. The ruling would prompt businesses and commercial kitchens to approach food differently, hastening food waste reduction.
And the news gets even better–there are plans to expand the ban to household food waste by 2020.
Before this change occurs, the composting and biogas infrastructure need work. But a guaranteed flow of food waste business–an additional 350,000 tons of clams, cranberries, etc. per year–should prompt new facilities.
There have been a few expressions of concern, mostly on the cost for restaurants. While that’s to be expected, this should be a universal (or global) win. Given the expensive Mass. landfill rates of $60-90 per ton (national average is $45), finding alternative uses for food should be cheaper, in addition to environmentally preferable.
One thing that remains a mystery–is this a done deal? Or can lawmakers screw it up? The Globe article indicates the former. Let’s hope so!
This Just In: Massachusetts is planning to ban commercial food waste from landfills. That means large restaurants, hospitals, universities and other large generators would have to compost or create energy with their waste. The ban, likely to go into effect in 2014, would be the first of its kind in the U.S.
Chuck Schumer knows that anaerobic digestion is a ‘game changer.’ He cut the ribbon at the opening of a New York biogas facility to turn manure and food waste into energy.
Next door, Connecticut is beginning to focus on extracting energy from its food waste.
Eating more of every animal–it’s the green thing to do.
Here’s a decent guideline for supermarkets–a recent audit found that 59% of an Illinois Whole Foods trash was compostable.
Finally, this piece has some good advice on how restaurants can become more sustainable, including keeping a better eye on waste (scroll to the bottom).
There’s something in the air at Boston-area universities. The smell of rotten fruit, perhaps?
Last week I wrote about a Tufts project to embed scannable, edible patches on food items to communicate bacteria levels. Now comes word of an M.I.T. project to help retailers know when food is ripening:
The new sensors, described in the journal Angewandte Chemie, can detect tiny amounts of ethylene, a gas that promotes ripening in plants. Swager envisions the inexpensive sensors attached to cardboard boxes of produce and scanned with a handheld device that would reveal the contents’ ripeness. That way, grocers would know when to put certain items on sale to move them before they get too ripe.
These ethylene sensors could be a useful idea for a supermarket industry that loses about 10% of its fresh fruits annually. Especially given that the supermarket industry is now contemplating how to reduce its food waste.
My guess is that these sensors will sink or swim on affordability. At about $1 for both the sensor that detects ethylene levels and the RFID chip to communicate them, I’d say they’re on the right track.
May 3, 2012 | Posted in Supermarket, Technology
One of the main reasons we waste food is that we don’t know what we have on hand. That’s why storing food in clear containers is so important.
Another way I’ve been avoiding waste lately has been by using this:
I know what you’re thinking: ‘How does a really, really shiny pepper help avoid waste?’ Guess what, folks–it’s not an actual red pepper. It’s a storage container for peppers!
When you’re using one of these, there’s no mistaking what’s inside. (Unless, that is, it’s a yellow pepper!) When I see this container in the fridge, I know that I have pepper waiting to be used.
(And no, there isn’t another pepper inside of that one.)
May 1, 2012 | Posted in Household, Personal
I promise I don’t hate technology. I’m not writing this on parchment paper in a cave. But when I read about this scannable, edible patch, I wasn’t thrilled.
A Tufts professor has created a patch made from gold (Gold?! ) and plastic (yum!) that your smarty talky gizmo smartphone reads to note how much bacteria is on your food.
As seen in the local news coverage, the patch is supposed to communicate both whether or not food is still good and also whether it may have a food borne illnesses like e. coli. I think the latter can be quite useful, but the former will lead to much edible food being tossed–like we see at the end of the news segment (Argh!).
The problem, as I see it, is that the sensors will enhance the notion that we aren’t able to tell for ourselves whether or not food remains good. And it’s not going to err on the risky side. Thus, it will encourage more discarding of edible food. A better, lower-tech solution, is to trust your senses instead, as the mom interviewed says she’ll just have to do while waiting the 3-5 years for the sensors to come out.
Note to TV producers: Putting an edible sensor on a banana peel isn’t the best.
Note II: How will this thing save us money?
April 26, 2012 | Posted in Food Safety, Household, Technology
It’s always nice to learn about food waste in a country we don’t often hear from. Today, we see a study on food waste in Finland.
Three quick thoughts on the report:
- Finns waste less food than most Europeans/North Americans.
- Finnish households produce more waste than any other sector (30-40 percent of the waste). But…I’m not sure if the study accounts for farm level waste. Food grown but not harvested usually tops home waste, but isn’t always counted in these studies.
- I love how the study transforms food waste into its environmental impact. About 1 percent of Finnish greenhouse gas emissions come from food waste.
April 23, 2012 | Posted in International